Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Showtime promoter Eddie Hearn has revealed Anthony Joshua will “almost certainly” fight mandatory IBF challenger Kubrat Pulev in his next outing.

Joshua appeared set to take on Wladimir Klitschko in a rematch of their April classic, although the veteran announced on social media on Thursday that he was to retire from the sport. Hearn offered an insight into where AJ may turn next as a result of the decision.

“We have an agreement in place with the IBF that if it wasn’t Klitschko it would be Pulev. It will almost certainly be Pulev next,” he said, per Riath Al-Samarrai of the MailOnline. “We need to sort out the final details but the venues don’t change. It will still be Vegas or Cardiff, with Cardiff probably the frontrunner.”

Hearn went on to add that the fight will take place on either October 28 or November 11, ahead of another potential fight for Joshua in March 2018.

Klitschko and Joshua met at Wembley in April.

Klitschko and Joshua met at Wembley in April.Dan Mullan/Getty Images

The promoter also expressed his disappointment that Klitschko would not be taking on Joshua for a second time. “We are obviously disappointed from an event perspective because the rematch was huge, but from a personal perspective I am happy for Wladimir,” Hearn added.

Boxing commentator Ian Darke believes Klitschko took the right decision to walk away from boxing:

It means Joshua is set to face a different man later in the year, and Pulev will be keen to grab his chance when it comes around.

Pulev has won 25 of his 26 fights.

Pulev has won 25 of his 26 fights.AFP/Getty Images

The 36-year-old Bulgarian has won 25 of his 26 professional bouts, with his only loss coming at the hands of Klitschko in 2014. Since then he’s won five fights on the spin, including victories against Dereck Chisora, Samuel Peter and most recently Kevin Johnson.

As noted by boxing journalist Tom Craze, Klitschko made the fight look easy before eventually beating Pulev three years ago:

For Joshua, it’s not going to be quite as substantial a challenge as his previous encounter. The Englishman came back from the brink to win a thrilling contest with the Ukrainian earlier in the year, getting off the floor to eventually stop Klitschko in the 11th round.

If the showdown with Pulev does go ahead, it’s not a bout that’ll excite too many boxing fans. But in a heavyweight division that suddenly looks a little scarce without Klitschko, there aren’t many other options.  

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